CARNIVAL Corporation continues to adapt its business to the post-pandemic world, last month confirming a further five ships will leave its fleet, bringing the total to 18. The departures include two Princess ships much-loved by Australians — Sea Princess and Sun Princess which have both been sold to unnamed purchasers as the company announced a US$1.7 billion quarterly loss.

The cruise giant noted that the divestments were part of its push towards a more efficient fleet, with the ships that are leaving representing about 12% of Carnival’s multi-brand capacity prior to COVID-19, but just 3% of the company’s operating income. “We continue to take aggressive action to emerge a leaner, more efficient company,” said CEO Arnold Donald, who believes the smaller fleet would lead to a structurally lower cost base.

Upbeat about the prospects for the future, Donald highlighted the fact that about 66% of Carnival’s guests each were repeat cruisers. “We believe the reduction in capacity leaves us well positioned to take advantage of the proven resiliency of, and the pent-up demand for, cruise travel,” he said.

The resumption of Australian voyages by the company’s Carnival Cruise Line brand has also been set back, with the inaugural season of Carnival Spirit out of the now-delayed Brisbane International Cruise Terminal now pushed back until late June 2021. Carnival said it had decided to delay the return to service of certain vessels until after upcoming dry dock maintenance. Carnival Splendor’s upcoming Sydney season has also been delayed until 7 January, with the company saying it may need to use the ship to support crew movements amid widespread ongoing international flight disruptions.

Along with other cruise operators, Carnival Corporation is supporting the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) submission to the Centers for Disease Control, which lays out a range of mandatory protocols for the resumption of cruising in the Americas, including 100% pre-departure COVID-19 testing of passengers and crew, the wearing of masks in all situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained, air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air on board, and tailored medical response plans for each ship to allow for dedicated isolation cabin capacity and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine and treatment.

Carnival highlighted the successful return to service of some of its brands in Europe, including Costa and AIDA, as an indicator of a way forward. CLIA noted that with such examples and the support of regulators and destinations it may be possible to resume cruising in the US before the end of 2020.